Deep Grace Ekka, the Indian hockey team's mainstay in defense, is shouldering a lot of responsibilities and loves executing them to perfection. The agile Indian hockey defender has been under a considerable pressure since the recent tour to Germany, where the team leaked more goals than scoring. However, Ekka believes India’s transition from playing a defensive brand of hockey to an aggressive one is done.
“There is a lot of improvement in Indian hockey from who we were and what we are. The focus of the team has shifted towards playing a different brand of hockey. We have played a lot of matches, a lot of leagues and we know where we stand,” the defender said in an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda from the Sports Authority of India (SAI) center in Bengaluru.
Unforgettable lessons for Deep Grace Ekka
The Indian hockey team’s recent tours to Argentina and Germany have been good learning lessons. With both teams adopting a different style of the game, Deep Grace Ekka feels the tours were valuable in terms of planning for the Tokyo Olympics 2021.
“We have improved the way we skillfully tackle the ball. For example, Argentina forwards-lift well, and take it one-on-one while Germany attacks more and create a lot of space to their advantage. This variety in style has taught us so much that we are better equipped to play against these teams at the Olympics,” said the Odisha-born defender.
At the SAI Center, the Indian hockey team has been practicing hard. Led by head coach Sjoerd Marijne and analytical coach Jenneke Schopman, the Indian hockey team finds itself simulating match scenarios more often than not. The team has been found wanting on several occasions when they have lost the ball in the ‘D’, thereby giving room for the opponents to take the upper hand. The team has also, in the past, been guilty of leaking penalty corners.
“We have divided ourselves into two teams during training. While one team creates an outlet for the ball to pass, another team attacks. This way, our defending skills come to the fore. We learned how not to concede many penalty corners by being agile and creating extra room for a pass. We are also now confident of restricting the penalty corner conversions,” Deep Grace Ekka explained.
Indian hockey team oozes confidence
The 26-year-old feels the Indian hockey team have adapted and are confident of putting on a stellar show at the Tokyo Olympics 2021.
“We are taking the ball to the opponent’s half more skillfully now. We are now adept at handling a 2-1 charge better and have stepped up the gas. We are now confident of playing against top-ranked teams without any fear as a lot has changed, including our fitness. We have improved on our endurance levels as well as we have realized fitness is also of importance, apart from skills, when we have to fetch the ball from the opponents,” Deep Grace Ekka said.
The Indian hockey women's team opens their Tokyo Olympics 2021 campaign against The Netherlands on July 24.